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Whale boat capsize victim Katie Taylor 'a lovely young woman'

Published 28/10/2015

David Thomas, 50, and his teenage son Stephen, from Swindon, Wiltshire, who died after a whale-watching boat sank off the coast of Canada.
David Thomas, 50, and his teenage son Stephen, from Swindon, Wiltshire, who died after a whale-watching boat sank off the coast of Canada.

The family of a British woman who died after a whale-watching boat sank off the coast of Canada have said she was a "vibrant, outgoing and lovely young woman".

Katie Taylor, 29, was among five Britons killed when the boat overturned near Vancouver Island on Sunday.

In a statement issued by the Foreign Office, her family said: "Katie was a vibrant, outgoing and lovely young woman. She will be very much missed by all of her family and many friends.

"We would ask that you respect our privacy at such a difficult time."

David Thomas, 50, and his 18-year-old son Stephen, from Swindon, Wiltshire, were among those who died when the Leviathan II capsized.

Nigel Hooker, 63, from Southampton, was also killed with expats Jack Slater, 76, who lived in Toronto, and Ms Taylor, who lived in the ski resort of Whistler. A 27-year-old man from Sydney remains missing.

Neighbours of Mr Hooker spoke of their shock at his death and described him as a "nice guy" who enjoyed working on his motorbike.

Martin Wire said: "It's a tragedy. He lived on his own but had visits from his family - three daughters, I believe. He was a very nice guy.

"I saw him last week going off on holiday, he certainly seemed to be an adventurous person. It's a very sad situation, quite unbelievable."

A spokesman for Airbus Defence and Space confirmed that Mr Hooker worked at its Portsmouth base for its telecommunications satellite business as a product programme assurance manager.

A statement released by the company said: "It is with great sadness that we have learnt of the tragic death of Nigel Hooker who worked at Airbus Defence and Space in Portsmouth. Nigel was a well respected and popular colleague, and will be greatly missed by everyone he worked with. Our thoughts are with his family and friends."

None of those who died was wearing a life jacket, although plenty were available, investigators have said.

The boat, run by local tour firm Jamie's Whaling Station, got into difficulty eight miles (13km) from the small town of Tofino, around 150 miles (240km) west of Vancouver.

Matt Brown, regional coroner for the Island Region of the British Columbia Coroners Service, said current regulations do not require passengers to wear life jackets in that area or on that particular type of boat.

Most of the passengers were on the left side of the boat, "affecting the vessel's stability", when a wave hit the right side, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada said.

A physical examination of the boat is due to begin today.

The TSB of Canada has interviewed the three crew members and some of the survivors about what happened.

Twenty-one people on board the stricken vessel, Leviathan II, were rescued, including Stephen Thomas's mother, Julie.

The Down's Syndrome Association paid tribute to the teenager, describing him as a "very talented young man" and a "gifted photographer", while his father was a "huge supporter" of the charity.

Stephen's brother, Paul Thomas, a 22-year-old University of Nottingham student, was flying out to Canada to be with his mother who is in hospital with minor injuries, the Swindon Advertiser reported.

Mr Slater - whose wife Marjorie was rescued from the boat - was originally from Salford but had lived in Canada for many years, while Ms Taylor was from Lichfield in Staffordshire, according to reports.

One of Mr Slater's daughters described his death as a "tragedy beyond belief".

Writing on Facebook, Michele Slater Brown said: "Our hearts are broken today, our father was one of the people who lost their lives on the whale-watching tragedy in Tofino.

"Our dad was larger than life, a charmer, handsome, entrepreneur, engineer in the Navy, he was 76 years old, he was our dad, our lovely dad, I will miss him forever but I'm grateful for all the times I spent with him, I love you dad."

Mr Brown said it had not been decided if post-mortem examinations were required, and that the chief coroner would decide whether an inquest would be held.

He added that the findings of the coroners' investigation - which could take a year - would be made public through a report or an inquest.

Jamie's Whaling Station suffered a previous fatal accident, with a boat becoming swamped and rolling to an angle in 1998, killing the captain and a tourist, and an incident two years earlier when a captain suffered head injuries, but survived, after falling asleep and running a boat aground.

The family of Mr Hooker said that he had been on the boat with his daughters Danielle and Aimee.

In a statement released to the BBC, the family said they were "in complete shock and disbelief and struggling to come to terms" with his death.

"Our dad Nigel was a loving and caring father, grandfather and brother who had an appetite for adventure," they said.

It is understood that the Australian boyfriend of Danielle Hooker, the daughter of Mr Hooker, is still missing following the incident.

The family of 27-year-old Rav Pillay, from Sydney, are believed to be travelling to Canada as well as Miss Hooker's mother.

The British Columbia Coroners Service confirmed yesterday that a 27-year-old man from Sydney was still missing.

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